Forest Hills, NY asked in Criminal Law for New York

Q: A person is guilty of prostitution when they engage in sexual conduct for a "fee". What is considered to be a fee?

In the state of New York, A person is guilty of prostitution when such person engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee. Does the term "fee" only refer to fiat currency like the USD? Would a person be guilty of prostitution if the engaged in sexual conduct for anything other than money, such as: food, clothes, an iPhone, artwork, or crypto-currencies?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Andrew S. Tabashneck
Andrew S. Tabashneck
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Williamsville, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Because crypto-currencies are pretty new, I doubt there is case law which directly relates to that form of a transaction. As it relates to food, clothes, an iphone, etc, Initially, I assumed the court would interpret this as being within the statutory definition of a fee. However, there is a case in New York, People v. Block 71 misc. 2d 714, which defined the term "fee", based on the Websters Dictionary, as "Compensation, often a fixed charge, for professional service or for special and requested exercise of talent or of skill, as by an artist; as a fee for consultation; a retaining fee." The court emphasized the use of "fee" "restricts the purview of the statute." The court noted that an exchange of sex for a "mink coat" would be outside the scope of the statute.

In the case of crypto-currencies, such as Bitcoin or Litecoin, it would depend on whether police could attach your wallet ID to you. This would probably depend on whether you transferred the money from an exchange or a wallet,

The case law on this issue is pretty limited. But I would strongly suggest you assume this conduct is illegal just to be safe

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